Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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24 SEPT. 10, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT With Notre Dame clinging to a 10-7 lead and time winding down in the third quarter, Ohio State was finally starting to gain some traction offensively when a 15-yard chop block penalty on the Buckeyes appeared to be a potential drive killer. The stage was set for the Fighting Irish to turn back another OSU scoring chance, but Heisman Trophy favorite C.J. Stroud had other ideas. On second-and-21 from the Irish 34, the Buckeyes' quarterback found wide receiver Xavier Johnson — a fifth-year senior and former walk-on who is perhaps the fifth or sixth option among OSU's vaunted receiving corps — on back-to-back plays, first for a 10-yard pass and then for a backbreak- ing 24-yard touchdown that put OSU back on top, 14-10. The Irish were thriving with a defensive game plan that aligned both safeties deep and kept the dynamic Buckeyes skill players in front of them, but on third-and-11 from the 24 they blitzed both of their safeties and Johnson easily beat fresh- man corner Jaden Mickey to the vacated area for what proved to be the game-winning score. STATS OF THE GAME For Notre Dame to emerge with its first road victory versus a top-five team in 17 years, a domi- nant effort at line of scrimmage was a must. Un- fortunately for the Fighting Irish, they lost both battles against the Buckeyes. The telltale numbers can be found in the rush- ing yards column, where Ohio State finished with a decisive 172-76 advantage. The Irish defense did a good job against the run in the first 45 minutes, limiting the Buckeyes to just 87 yards. But in the fourth quarter, OSU amassed 85 yards on 16 carries (5.3 yards per attempt) to salt away the game. Sixty-four of those yards came on the Buckeyes' game-sealing, 14-play, 95-yard drive that milked seven minutes off the clock and gave them a comfortable 21-10 lead. Meanwhile, even when you remove the three sacks from their rushing total, the Irish could muster only 95 yards on 27 attempts (3.5 yards per carry). On an evening when Notre Dame was breaking in a young, inexperienced signal-caller on the road in a hostile environment, that proved debilitating. MISSED OPPORTUNITY There is certainly no shame in losing a hard- fought game on the road against an opponent the caliber of Ohio State. However, just as Lou Holtz said following a 24-23 loss to No. 3 Michigan in his Fighting Irish coaching debut in 1986, "Notre Dame doesn't have moral victories." We know Marcus Freeman agrees with him. If someone had told you prior to the game that Ohio State star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba would get hurt and account for just 2 catches for 3 yards and that the Fighting Irish would limit Stroud and company to 24 points below its 2021 scoring average (45.7), you would have to feel pretty good about the Fighting Irish's chances at springing an upset. The OSU defenders had other ideas, though, following an offseason during which they had to listen to how soft they were after getting bull- dozed by Michigan last November, limiting the Irish to just 253 total yards and 5.3 yards per play to grind out a victory. No doubt better days are ahead for the Irish offense, but it still stings to whiff on this golden opportunity. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY STEVE DOWNEY QB TYLER BUCHNER The sophomore signal-caller was only 10-of-18 passing for 177 yards with no touch- downs and no interceptions, the latter of which pleased head coach Marcus Freeman. But he only completed two passes in the second half and ran 11 times for 18 yards (three sacks for 19 lost yards taking a little away from that). Buchner gets a game ball because he avoided turnovers and didn't do anything that directly lost Notre Dame the game in his first career start. CORNERBACK TARIQ BRACY Notre Dame played a nickel defense for most of the night, which put the graduate student on the field for a heavy share of snaps. He made the most of them by record- ing 4 tackles, 1 of which was a tackle for loss. Playing slot corner is a tough proposition against a team that lines up wide receivers in all kinds of formations. Bracy didn't fall for the Buckeyes' different looks. RUNNING BACK AUDRIC ESTIME The sophomore had more carries than anyone else in gold not named Tyler Buchner, but his 9 totes only went for 21 yards to give him an unenviable 2.3 yards per carry. One of those rushes was a 1-yard touchdown plunge, though, while he was lined up as a fullback. He took the high road and stuck the ball out over the goal line. Estime looked like Notre Dame's No. 1 back, even ahead of junior Chris Tyree. LINEBACKER JACK KISER The senior surely shows up in the right spot at the right time quite often. He re- corded 6 tackles, 4 of which were solo takedowns. Only junior cornerback Clarence Lewis had more tackles for Notre Dame with seven. Kiser was one of the best and most noticeable players on a Notre Dame defense that played well against the Buckeyes' vaunted offense. TIGHT END MICHAEL MAYER It surely wasn't a sexy stat line for the junior who's chasing several all-time Notre Dame tight end records. But it was a line that showed just how vital Mayer is to the (nonexistent at times) Irish passing offense. He reeled in 5 catches for 32 yards on 8 targets. The rest of Notre Dame's players had five catches combined, and none of them had more than one. GAME BALLS BY TYLER HORKA Sophomore running back Audric Estime scored his first career touch- down against Ohio State. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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